The most recommended books about Hanoi

Who picked these books? Meet our 11 experts.

11 authors created a book list connected to Hanoi, and here are their favorite Hanoi books.
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36 Streets

By T R Napper,

Book cover of 36 Streets

D.P. Vaughan Author Of Ethereal Malignance

From the list on complex identities.

Who am I?

From a young age, I've been engrossed by the complexities of identity, a theme I explore as an Australian speculative fiction writer. My own identity comes with its quirks—I hold a Bachelor of Music in Composition, spent a decade in admin roles, and the better part of another decade teaching English to adult migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. This eclectic background enriches my narratives, which blend supernatural elements with grounded realism and diverse representation. Whether it's exploring loneliness or delving into the lives of victims of bullying, my unique lens makes me well-suited to recommend books that tackle intricate themes of identity.

D.P.'s book list on complex identities

Why did D.P. love this book?

36 Streets by Australian author T.R. Napper is a cyberpunk thriller set in a futuristic noir Vietnam that tackles identity in a unique way.

The protagonist, a woman born in Vietnam but raised in Australia, grapples with her sense of belonging—deported from her adopted country due to racist government policies, her body language and command of English is as an Australian, and she is painfully aware that her Vietnamese is heavily accented and uncertain, and that her body language doesn’t match the locals of her birth nation.

Add to that the ability to edit human memory and to experience VR so realistically that you can live as someone else, and you have a story that questions the very fabric of identity.

By T R Napper,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked 36 Streets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Altered Carbon and The Wind-Up Girl meet Apocalypse Now in this fast-paced, intelligent, action-driven cyberpunk, probing questions of memory, identity and the power of narratives.

Lin 'The Silent One' Vu is a gangster and sometime private investigator living in Chinese-occupied Hanoi, in the steaming, paranoid alleyways of the 36 Streets. Born in Vietnam, raised in Australia, everywhere she is an outsider.

Through grit and courage Lin has carved a place for herself in the Vietnamese underworld where Hanoi's crime boss, Bao Nguyen, is training her to fight and lead. Bao drives her hard; on the streets there are no second…

Hanoi Journal, 1967

By Carol Cohen McEldowney,

Book cover of Hanoi Journal, 1967

Jessica Frazier Author Of Women's Antiwar Diplomacy During the Vietnam War Era

From the list on women and the US war in Vietnam.

Who am I?

I fell into researching women’s antiwar activism during the U.S. war in Vietnam by chance when I came across evidence of middle-aged American women traveling to Jakarta, Indonesia in 1965 to meet with women from North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front—the enemies of the United States at the time. Discovering that some of these same U.S. women (and many others), would later travel to Hanoi despite the United States conducting extensive bombing raids over North Vietnam, despite travel to North Vietnam being prohibited, and despite some of the women having young children at home, simply astounded me, and I had to find out more.

Jessica's book list on women and the US war in Vietnam

Why did Jessica love this book?

Carol McEldowney, a community organizer in 1967, cut her activist teeth in the student protest movement in the early 1960s as a founding member of Students for a Democratic Society. In 1967, she accepted the opportunity to attend an antiwar conference with Vietnamese diplomats, including Nguyen Thi Binh, in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. Following that meeting, McEldowney and six other Americans traveled on to Hanoi to find out what was happening on the ground. Her transcribed journal tells of this experience, including McEldowney’s anxieties, hopes, and doubts, and presents readers with a glimpse of life for North Vietnamese as well as a window into the questions, concerns, and perceptions of an antiwar activist.

By Carol Cohen McEldowney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hanoi Journal, 1967 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the fall of 1967, Carol McEldowney, a twenty-four-year-old community organizer living in Cleveland, embarked on a remarkable journey. In a climate of growing domestic unrest and international turmoil, she traveled illegally to North Vietnam with fellow members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) to meet the enemy face-to-face. She was determined to understand the foe that had troubled America's leaders in Washington since the end of World War II. With an eye toward history and a recognition of the significance of her journey, McEldowney documented her experiences in the journal reproduced in this book. Through her words we…

Listen, Slowly

By Thanhhà Lai,

Book cover of Listen, Slowly

Carol Fisher Saller Author Of Maddie's Ghost

From the list on middle-grade mysteries about multigenerational family secrets.

Who am I?

The older I get, the more fascinated I am with family history and the way certain traits or talents get passed down – or not. Unfortunately, we don’t always know much about our own ancestors. Maybe that’s why I appreciate a multigenerational story that shows all the forms a young person’s “inheritance” can take, whether money, looks, a special skill or talent, or even a disease. And because I’ve always loved a good mystery, I enjoy books where a young person seeks to uncover a family secret. Finally, now that I’m on the older side of the generations, I appreciate a book that portrays older family members realistically and with respect.

Carol's book list on middle-grade mysteries about multigenerational family secrets

Why did Carol love this book?

By jetting a privileged California tween of Vietnamese descent into her extended family in Hanoi, Thanhhà Lai creates all kinds of expectations and then delightfully subverts them, educating and entertaining readers at the same time.

Although most of the book is about Mai’s culture shock and gradual adjustment, her frail grandmother Bà remains the emotional center of the story. Bà’s loss of her husband during the Vietnam War and her journey to reclaim his secret last message build the story into a dramatic climax unlike any I’ve ever encountered.

By Thanhhà Lai,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Listen, Slowly as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This remarkable and bestselling novel from Thanhha Lai, author of the National Book Award–winning and Newbery Honor Book Inside Out & Back Again, follows a young girl as she learns the true meaning of family. 

Listen, Slowly is a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year!

A California girl born and raised, Mai can’t wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War.

Mai’s parents…

The Circle of Hanh

By Bruce Weigl,

Book cover of The Circle of Hanh: A Memoir

F. Scott Service Author Of Playing Soldier

From the list on emotional conflict and post-war survival.

Who am I?

Living through the Iraq War compelled me to honestly challenge who I was, what I had believed in, and reshape who I am. One aspect to emerge from that is the belief that there is no good war. War is the worst of all endeavors, born from fundamentally weak minds that are blind to imagination and vision. But while I have had a passion for writing about war and speaking out against it, I feel it’s important for people to look beyond my work as just another veteran writing just another war book. In both of my books, the war is a character more than anything else. 

F.'s book list on emotional conflict and post-war survival

Why did F. love this book?

This is a story of new beginnings and it shook my preconceived notions of what a memoir embodies. By going back to Vietnam years after the war, the author illustrates how love and time can change our opinions… that hate is the easy way out… that differences can allow us to understand how truly precious we all are… that we can come full circle, out of the darkness and into the light.

By Bruce Weigl,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Circle of Hanh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With all the breathtaking imagery and lyric fury that characterizes his acclaimed poetry, Bruce Weigl recounts his struggles in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, which tore his life apart and in return gave him his poetic voice. Upon his release from duty he turned to alcohol, drugs, and women, living for years in a confused purgatory until he discovered salvation in poetry and in the love of his wife and their son. Yet it was only through a harrowing journey back to Vietnam, to adopt his eight-year-old daughter, that Weigl was finally able to heal himself. Moving from childhood…

Simple Art of Vietnamese Cooking

By Binh Duong, Marcia Kiesel,

Book cover of Simple Art of Vietnamese Cooking

Didi Emmons Author Of Vegetarian Planet

From the list on Southeast Asian cookbooks from a Chef who uses them daily.

Who am I?

Thirty-two years ago, I got my start as a chef by cooking in a shoebox cafe in Boston that played with curious Asian ingredients. Ten years later, after using lots of Asian cookbooks, I was incorporating Thai and Vietnamese cooking into my menus at the restaurant I was running. A few years after that, I opened and ran a Vietnamese restaurant in Cambridge (unfortunately, after major success, it burned down after a year). After this, the tourism board of Malaysia sent me on a four-week trip to write about the street food for FoodArts magazine. It is these experiences that greatly influenced my interest in Southeast Asian cooking.

Didi's book list on Southeast Asian cookbooks from a Chef who uses them daily

Why did Didi love this book?

This book is written by Binh Duong, the owner and chef of a Vietnamese restaurant in Hartford, CT, and Marcia Kiesel, who was a food and wine magazine journalist and tester. I once opened and ran a popular pho restaurant in Cambridge and I relied heavily, almost fully, on this cookbook. Its recipes are almost never off-tune (and I highly recommend the dipping sauces and condiments chapter). Its recipes are easy to follow and every detail is clearly spelled out. Some ingredients may be foreign (tree ears, tiger lily buds) but nothing a decent Asian market would not have.

By Binh Duong, Marcia Kiesel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Simple Art of Vietnamese Cooking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The author shares his secrets to cooking such Vietnamese dishes as Coral Lobster, Hanoi Soup, Happy Pancakes, and Sweet Potato Nests with Shrimp

The Mountains Sing

By Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai,

Book cover of The Mountains Sing

Betty Bolte Author Of Becoming Lady Washington

From the list on historical fiction about emotionally strong women.

Who am I?

I “discovered” historical fiction when a teen and have devoured it ever since. When my parents took me to the Cowpens National Battlefield in South Carolina in 9th grade, I realized just how much I enjoyed learning about history in real life. I found that reading historical fiction breathed life into what can be a very dull read, so I wanted to bring history to life with my own words. Visiting historical properties has become a big passion of mine! Every trip I take includes a visit to some historical site or another. I’ve been writing historical fiction/romance/fantasy since the late 1990s.

Betty's book list on historical fiction about emotionally strong women

Why did Betty love this book?

This story is set in Việt Nam and paints a clear picture of the people who lived there in the 1930-1980 timeframe of the story. The family faced hardships and tragedies, including being separated for several months when they were forced to flee for their lives. One thing I really appreciated was seeing the impact and impressions of the Việt Nam war on the people of that country. My brother fought over there—he was a Ranger in the Army—during that conflict and came home very different. In fact, he’s estranged himself from the family for the past 30+ years. Reading about the conflict from the other side gives me a clearer idea of what he might have seen or done that he never would tell me about.

By Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Mountains Sing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Years later in Ha Noi, her young granddaughter, Huong, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart.

Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Viet Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.

The Mountains Sing is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyen Phan Que Mai's first novel in English.